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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- June 2019
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 39 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Deadwood: The Movie (2019)
HBO Now- 1hr. 51min.
Though it doesn't reach the heights that the original series did, Deadwood: The Movie is a bittersweet, satisfying, fitting goodbye to the landmark HBO series. The biggest hurdle that the film has to clear, aside from 15 years worth of audience expectations, is the closing out such an expansive story, and world, in under two hours. It has a bit of trouble doing this in the first act, as the film just has too much to do; reintroduce old favorites, reacquaint the audience with the world, introduce an inciting event. As the film settles into it's story however, and the characters all make there returns (some get much less than others, but the film does justice to most), the film hits its stride, and is as enjoyable as some the series' finest episodes. It all climaxes to a loving, surprisingly empathetic, melancholy ending. This time of cutthroats and cocksuckers has come to an end, now for the ages; let it fuckin' stay there.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Ensemble Performance
Best Adapted Screenplay- David Milch
Best Cinematography- David Klein
Best Costume Design (Period)- Janie Bryant
The Upside (2017)
DVD- 2hrs. 6min.
Much like the film it's remaking (2011's French hit The Intouchables), when The Upside works, it's largely due to the work of it's leads. While, admittedly, the film is reasonably well-made, with suitably low-key craft, it rests on the work of Cranston and Hart. The story is boilerplate overly maudlin, melodramatic, faux-uplifting hooey, rendering most moments overly-done, but the lead duo's work keeps the film chugging along, succeeding far more than it has any right to. Both do strong individual work, as well as exceptional work together. Together, they work mightily to make this thing a harmless, amiable affair; i.e. a semi-success.
X2: X-Men United (2003)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Dante's Peak (1997)
Hulu- 1hr. 49min.
My bar was low for this one; all it had to do was top Volcano, and give me some solid disaster set pieces. It did not. In fact, Dante's Peak is shockingly dull. It's got a pair of bland lead characters, though Hamilton does charm occasionally, and filmmaking that adds little tension into the film. It's one of those films that starts off pretty solidly, then slowly but surely loses intrigue, to the point where the ending is irrelevant. Some of the effects work, but there's no pacing with the thrills; it's just lights and sounds that the filmmakers hope will inspire viewers to care. Didn't work for me.
Monthly Wesley AwardsWorst Picture
Best Visual Effects
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Morning Glory (2010)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 47min.
The story lacks cohesion and poor structure hampers character beats (it's too repetitive for too long, then progress is too quickly reversed), it also relies heavily on staid cliches, but Morning Glory mostly succeeds thanks to a terrific cast, frothy material, and energetic filmmaking. This is one of those, very common, films where the script holds it back; the bones are there, and there's a lot of solid material, but it just can't get out of it's own way, going for the easy outs nearly every time. There's a lot to like here though. Director Roger Michell keeps the thing going with controlled verve, taking the positives the script has an exploiting the best out of them. The cast, too, is quite strong. Despite the manipulative nature of the relationship, Ford and McAdams' bond has some surprisingly potent resonance, granting the film the emotional undercurrent that, ultimately, makes it a winner.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Supporting Actress- Diane Keaton
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Independence Day (1996)
There's nothing here that would be recommendable over the original version. Some scenes go on too long, nothing new feels essential, and the Randy Quaid family subplot has some baffling inclusions. Stick to the original.
Gloria Bell (2019)
DVD- 1hr. 42min.
Sebastián Lelio remakes one of his own films with Gloria Bell (2013's Gloria) and, if this version is anything to go by, he is an exceptionally keen observer of everyday life. There's an unfussy, casual style to the film that keeps every daily absurdity natural and grounded. It's a rarity for modern cinema; a filmmaking style that could be described as lived-in. While his script gets a tad too repetitive the middle act, this is the kind of film that's made or broke by great direction and a brilliant lead performance. Luckily, Lelio got Julianne Moore, who gives a flawless performance in the title role, nailing everything little moment, every detail, every nuance. It's a shame they already gave her an Oscar this decade; this'd be a hell of a career achievement, in that it would be totally deserving.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Director- Sebastián Lelio
Best Actress- Julianne Moore
Men in Black (1997)
The Perfection (2019)
Netflix- 1hr. 30min.
It's a strange film that twists itself into so many knots that it ends up close to a pretzel, but The Perfection is built for this purpose. It's not going for some sort of cathartic messaging, some biting probe of the cultural mood surrounding abuse and misogyny; it's these using hot-button concepts to provoke, to thrill, and even entertain. While it doesn't go down completely smoothly (these provocations are too exploitative for their own good at times), it's such a well-constructed film, with exceptional craft and two strong central performances, that its a mostly captivating experience.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Original Screenplay- Richard Shepard, Nicole Snyder and Eric C. Charmelo
Best Production Design (Contemporary)- John Marcynuk and Stevo Bedford
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
HBO Now- 2hrs. 12min.
Some might find this rendition of The Count of Monte Cristo to be too traditional, too old-school. It's a hard claim to argue against, as Kevin Reynolds' film sticks to the kind of calm filmmaking that was pioneered by Golden Age classics. I would argue, however, that that isn't a blemish but beauty mark. This film understands the hallmarks of filmmaking, and incorporates them so naturally, so artistically, so thrillingly, with such warmth and wit, that it feels fresh. Sure, this classic approach can feel a bit too polished here and there, but there's just too much quality here to let the negatives outweigh the positives. Great direction, a clever screenplay, a terrific acting ensemble; it's why we go to the cinema.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Supporting Actor- Richard Harris
Best Production Design (Period)- Mark Geraghty and Johnny Byrne
Murder Mystery (2019)
Netflix- 1hr. 37min.
It might be the faintest of faint praise, but it's no less true; Murder Mystery is Adam Sandler's best Happy Madison movie in years. Sure, it's at times as lazy and uninspired as his most recent fare, but Mystery is, to it's credit, a more benign affair. Everything is subdued and, despite a couple of more eye-roll inducing "jokes", amiable, from the story, to the performances, to the actual filmmaking. Sandler, himself, seems midly engaged here too, with his costar Aniston (one his better onscreen scene partners) drawing some life out of him (there's also a pretty solid ensemble here too, though they're relegated to, mostly, perfunctory roles). It's not an original film, not even a particularly good, but it's a likable film, and a surprisingly enjoyable one.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Costume Design (Contemporary)- Renée April
Mission to Mars (2000)
Showtime- 1hr. 53min.
There are moments of genuine wonderment that director Brian de Palma is able to elicit with Mission to Mars. Sure, they've been slathered in pseudo-philosophical schmaltz, but his abilities as a filmmaker power this one to some wonderful moments. Unfortunately, the story just doesn't have it. The film is just built on cliches, on contrivances, that rob the film of it's impact. The cast tries their damnedest to inject some soul into the proceedings (to their credit, they succeed more than they should, give the screenplays clunkiness) and, again, it's exceptionally crafted, but the script never takes off.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Production Design (Fantasy)- Ed Verreaux and Lin Macdonald
DVD- 1hr. 38min.
Don't let the title fool you; The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is not some grindhouse schlockfest with Sam Elliot as a bad-ass monster killer, but a somber rumination on the passing of time and regret. That bait and switch may turn some off, as will the aggressive dourness of the story and its telling. I, however, was rather impressed by the film. It isn't the most subtle or original film, but it's a well-told story about the perils of choosing duty over emotion and hollowness of legend. It benefits greatly from exceptional craft and a terrific cast, lead by a pitch-perfect Sam Elliot. He's been playing these roles a lot lately, but he's no less believable and compelling here, every word and action dripping with the scars of time.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actor- Sam Elliot
Best Costume Design (Fantasy)- Michael Bevins and Carol Cutshall
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Starz- 1hr. 37min.
The Princess and the Frog isn't quite the breath of fresh air that Disney marketed as (despite a diverse array of characters, a Black princess and New Orleans flavor, the film is pretty standard fair), but it's a mostly fun, diverting musical with some beautiful hand-drawn animation, excellent music and some, comparatively, unique perspectives for the genre. This is a fun movie, though not as deep as one would hope given the culture represented; despite characters and a setting steeped in African-American culture, though movie goes the colorblind route, hoping that seeing dark-skinned character from a predominantly white genre will do the job (to their credit, it, at times, does work). The animation is lush, the voice cast is strong and the story, despite some meandering in the middle, is solid; an enjoyable film for all ages and cultures.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Animated Film
Best Score- Randy Newman
Best Song- "Almost There"
Best Sound Mixing
Finding Nemo (2003)
Toy Story (1995)
Cars 2 (2011)
Starz- 1hr. 46min.
There are occasional moments of Pixar magic to be found in Cars 2, but the complete film is, clearly, the studio's nadir. It's fairly witless, cloying, and excessively pandering; it makes the original look like a Toy Story. I'm not sure who thought ceding the film to Mater was a good idea, but screenwriter Ben Queen takes the idea and, unfortunately, runs with it. Nobody was demanding more Larry the Cable Guy films, let alone massive animated one, and the character grates from moment one. There's still some lovely filmmaking though, and the middle section has a couple of strong, slam-bang action set pieces that are among some of the most appealing that Pixar has ever made. Those moments don't make up for poor, annoying storytelling though, and the film is, predominantly, a slog.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Sound Editing
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
World War Z (2013)
Five Feet Apart (2019)
DVD- 1hr. 56min.
Five Feet Apart is a movie you've seen before; the good girl, who's motivated and plays by the rules, meets the bad boy, who's snarky and doesn't care about order, and they fall in love. While there's a bit of variation here (the bad boy isn't actually bad, he's just a bit of an ass at the start), that's the template. With that in mind, Apart is surprisingly solid. The script is as hokey and maudlin as any other film in the genre, but the direction doesn't let the film descend into schmaltz, at least not completely, and wisely allows the film to rest on the shoulders of it's leads. Richardson and Sprouse, especially the former, sketch believable, empathetic characters, carrying the emotion of the film with surprising poise and humanity. When the film succeeds, which it does a shocking amount, it's thanks to this more humane approach; if only the script followed actors leads.
Captive State (2019)
DVD- 1hr. 49min.
Captive State comes so close to being a strong movie. It's got a solid setup, one that could exploit allegories to modern society and, in particular, modern government. The cast is strong too, assembling a top-notch unit of character actors. It's just so dour though. It also moves at too fast a clip, never allowing the audience to understand the characters' emotions; there just robots in a story machine. That set, it does make solid use of the setting; there's been a genuine attempt to highlight the fear, paranoia and claustrophobia that an alien occupation might elicit, and it works reasonably well. The story just around it, though, lumbers. Combine that with the weak character work and anonymous filmmaking, and you're left with a great idea for a movie that only ever takes advantage of this infrequently.
The Kid (2019)
DVD- 1hr. 39min.
The Kid is a rarity for modern cinema; a traditional western. There are a couple of modern touches here and there, but this is a throwback to western's of yore; morally grey men on opposite sides of the line, innocents drawn into the lure of crime, casually violence, moral codes, etc. With that in mind, the movie is just fine; first-time director Vincent D'Onofrio has a solid handle on the material, with decent framing and a abundance of room for actors to breathe. The cast is, mostly, solid; DeHaan is a little twitchy as Billy the Kid, but it fits for the film's characterization; Jake Schur doesn't get many notes to play with as the title Kid, he's the cipher for the audience, but never feels out of place; Chris Pratt tries, but feels rather miscast as the volatile heavy, and his pube beard is distracting funny. Ethan Hawke, unsurprisingly, fares the best as west-weary, by-the-books, duty-over-emotion Pat Garrett, embodying the character tremendously. He, and the rest of the cast, are let down by a perfunctory, monologue-heavy script that has a hard time reconciling the legends of these men with the flesh-and-blood characters. With a stronger script and more assured, maybe even daring, direction, this might have been a memorable film; as is, it's just okay.
The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)
Showtime- 1hr. 34min.
The Catcher Was a Spy is too well-assembled to be a complete bust, but too opaque and surface to be satisfying. Everything on display here is respectable, from the technical aspects (cinematography, costumes, makeup, music, production design, sound) to the cast, to the respect extended to the real-life subject. There are moments, too, where the story even works (a confrontation near the end is quite strong). That said, Robert Rodat's script is just too vague, kneecapping the film at nearly every turn. Most scenes never get deep enough into the world they're illustrating, nor the characters themselves. This is especially true of the title catcher; Rudd does all he can with the role, turning some of the quieter scenes in the film into genuine character builders, but the movie never seems interesting in exploring the character. While that is possibly, even probably, by design (little is known about Moe Berg's interior life), the film barely attempts to hint at the man's complexities, including the impact that the spy work had on his life. It's a perfect allegory for the film; a myriad of surface pleasures, but no real deeper meaning.
Netflix- 1hr. 48min.
You don't go into a movie like Obsessed looking for a detailed examination of gender politics, for a rumination on the nuances of human relationships and sexuality; you're here for stupid twists and a couple of chicks beating the shit out of each other. In that regard, Obsessed is something of a disappointment; more maddening in its blatant stupidity than fun. Sure, there's enough absurdity here to have fun with, and the knockout brawl between the female leads that was marketed to death is solid (though weirdly somber), but there's just so many leaps in logic, predicated entirely on characters idiocy, that I was screaming at the screen more than laughing. The lead is, ostensibly, just a decent guy whose wife leaves him after he's date-raped, and then he has to win her back. I don't need genuine insight from movies like this, but there's a way to make this kind of movie that isn't regressive and terrible. You have to have characters worth, mildly, caring about; when your ending is built up to two characters that are rather unlikable fighting to the death, sidelining the only empathetic one, you're just navel gazing to sell tickets.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Worst Movie
Ghost Rider (2007)
Hard Target (1993)
Starz- 1hr. 36min.
Hard Target is a truly stupid film, but it is gloriously so; combining JCVD and John Woo proves an inspired pairing, as the actor's stilted performance goes surprisingly well with the director's cheesy, kinetic, near-balletic filmmaking style. Really, aesthetic is all the film has going for it; the story isn't necessarily terrible (it could make for some solid social commentary in the right hands), but it's schlock, pure and simple, only elevated by Woo's style and strong villains (Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo are wonderfully hammy here). It won't be one for everyone, but anyone who enjoys terrible dialogue ("...because mama took a chance"), choppy acting (Wilford Brimley with Cajun accent needs to be seen to be believed), and overly-stylized direction should get a kick out of this one.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
DVD- 2hrs. 3min.
Hotel Mumbai walks an exceptionally tight rope, one between sobering, brutal, heartbreaking, and exploitative, manipulative. This is a delicate balance that many films have a hard time managing, and that's no exception here. The film works best when the scenes move quick, with the speed providing visceral punches that hit hard; the longer scenes go on, the more the screenplay indulges in speculation, thinly drawn character and cheap terror that does a disservice to both the film, and the real-life victims of the tragedy. Ultimately, I think it the film works more than it doesn't, but this is not a particularly deep film. The action thrills, but the story cloys.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Editing- Anthony Maras and Peter McNulty
Number of Movies Watched: 39
Newly Watched: 19
Time Spent: 72hrs. 36min.
Best New View: Gloria Bell
Worst New View: Dante's Peak
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